The Adult-Friendly Mac and Cheese Recipe You Won’t Want to Share

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July 14 is National Mac and Cheese Day, which is the perfect excuse to indulge in a fancy adult version of this childhood comfort food. With three types of cheese, this mac and cheese recipe is not only a gourmet take on a classic, but it’s great for company or to take to a barbecue as a side dish. This easy stovetop mac and cheese recipe puts the box to shame and it’s ready in less than 30 minutes with a few simple ingredients. 

I’m starting out with a bold declaration: Mac and cheese is my absolute favorite food of all time. I’m from the Midwest, so loving creamy, cheesy dishes is in my DNA. Mac and cheese was always a childhood favorite of mine, and I still love making delicious one-pot versions of this pasta dish. The three-cheese macaroni recipe below tastes fancy but couldn’t be simpler to make. All you need is one pot, a few whole ingredients, a lot of good cheese, and pasta of your choice.

The key to achieving the perfect balance of creaminess and flavor is using three types of cheese. I start with a sharp cheddar: the classic. It gives the sauce its traditional tang and familiar flavor. I love the Vermont-based Cabot sharp cheddar, but you can use any white or yellow cheddar that is labeled as "sharp" or "extra sharp." The next cheese, Gruyère, is a luxuriously melty cheese that comes from Switzerland. Gruyère, which is often used in fondues, will give your mac and cheese next-level richness and sophistication. And finally, I like to stir in some cream cheese to give this dish an extra velvety sauce. Tossed with pasta, the cheddar/Gruyère/cream cheese combination is a true three-cheese trifecta.

My one secret ingredient in this dish is a small amount of ground mustard powder. It adds an extra sharpness to the recipe which is a nice balance with the creamy cheeses and pasta. I like to finish the dish off with freshly ground black pepper to top.

While this recipe is almost too good to share, this mac and cheese is actually the perfect side dish to take to a potluck or summer cookout. It goes well with entrees from the barbecue and provides a nice contrast to crunchy summer salads and their bright vinaigrette. This recipe serves 8, but you can double the recipe if you are making this dish for a larger crowd. 

Fancy Adult Mac and Cheese Recipe

Servings: 8
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes


  • 16 ounces macaroni noodles; use gluten-free if desired
  • 2 tablespoons butter 
  • 8 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
  • 4 ounces Gruyère cheese, shredded
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 cup half and half
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon ground mustard powder
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • Salt to taste


  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook macaroni according to package instructions. Drain and return the macaroni to the pot.
  2. Add butter, sharp cheddar, Gruyère cheese, cream cheese, half and half, milk, and mustard powder. Cook over low heat and continuously stir until the cheese has melted and the sauce is thick. 
  3. Remove from heat and add freshly ground black pepper. Taste, adding sea salt and more fresh ground pepper if desired.

Dietary Modifications

  • This recipe is vegetarian and meatless. If you are looking for a plant-based vegan mac and cheese recipe, I have one here that uses blended vegetables and spices for a creamy sauce.
  • To make this recipe gluten-free, make sure you use a certified gluten-free macaroni pasta.

Tags: Sunday Dinner Ideas

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Written By

Kelly Jensen

Kelly is a librarian, homesteader, recipe creator, and beekeeper. See Full Bio

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